A forensic investigator sued for defamation by former Perth barrister Lloyd Rayney has asked the Supreme Court judge who heard the case two years ago to step down from the case as she has already worked with Mr. Rayney’s attorney.
- Mark Reynolds is being sued for remarks he made at a seminar in 2014
- Dr Reynolds asked the libel trial judge to recuse himself
- Mr. Rayney opposed the request
Mark Reynolds is being sued over remarks he made during a seminar at Curtin University in 2014 that there was ‘no need for a cold case review’ over the death of Corryn Rayney in 2007, because “the offender has been identified”.
Ms Rayney’s body was found in a deep grave in Kings Park in Perth’s CBD, nine days after she went missing following a scooter course at Bentley, 14 miles away.
Mr Rayney was charged with her murder three years later and in 2012, after a trial by judge alone, he was found not guilty – a verdict upheld on appeal.
Mr Rayney has always denied any involvement in his wife’s death and in December 2017 he was awarded $2.62million after a Supreme Court judge found he had been defamed by police.
In 2020, Mr Rayney was disbarred as a lawyer after being found in the State Administrative Court to have secretly recorded his wife’s conversations as their marriage fell apart before his death in 2007.
The Tribunal also found that Mr. Rayney gave false testimony about the tapes in court.
The full bench of the WA Supreme Court said the decision to strike him out “was essentially due to Mr Rayney’s fundamental failure to adhere to his duty to the court to act honestly”.
The decision was made in April 2020, three months before another judge, Judge Jenni Hill, presided over Mr Rayney’s defamation case involving Mr Reynolds, who worked with WA Police during the inquest into Mrs. Rayney’s death.
Mr Rayney alleged that Mr Reynolds’ comments at the public forum gave rise to the suggestion that he murdered his wife and got away with it.
Dr Reynolds is defending the defamation claim and argued at trial that the comments did not suggest what Mr Rayney claimed to have done.
Professional relationship between judge and lawyer
Today Dr Reynolds appeared before Judge Hill, telling the court he thought he should have been told in advance about the working relationship between her and Mrs longtime lawyer Rayney, Martin Bennett.
The court heard they worked together at the same law firm until 2005, with Dr Reynolds pointing out that Judge Hill started there when she was an articles clerk before rising to the level of associated at the time of his departure.
“You can’t say that (Mr Bennett) didn’t have an influence on you…you would have been a young practitioner and thirsty for his knowledge,” Dr Reynolds said.
Dr Reynolds said he taught bias “internationally all over the world” and one of the difficult things about what he did was explaining how, if you’re human, you have bias and didn’t even know it was happening. .
“There is a need to err on the side of caution, a need to demonstrate to the lay observer…which is me…that there is transparency in the system,” he said.
“It’s about the impartial observer hearing about the situation and saying it’s right.”
Dr Reynolds said the lawyer who represented him at trial in 2020 had now retired, but in discussions he had now said that if he had known “he would have approached the case differently”.
In discussions with Dr Reynolds, Judge Hill said it had been emphasized in court that it was a trial judge’s obligation to do the job assigned to him, describing it as ” a critical point” of the judicial system.
Mr. Rayney opposes the motion for recusal
She said it was about whether a relationship that ended 15 years ago was enough for her to recuse herself.
Mr Rayney, through his lawyer Nilan Ekanayake, opposed the request, with Mr Ekanayake noting that the relationship between His Honor and Mr Bennett had ended long before the 2020 trial.
“There has been no personal or professional relationship for 15 years,” Mr Ekanayake said.
He also suggested that Judge Hill’s recusal request may have been because Dr Reynolds had failed in a request before her to have the libel case decided by a jury.
Judge Hill will deliver her decision later this week.